In its continued efforts to develop and deploy artificial intelligence to address some of the nation’s toughest defense challenges, the Defense Department, in coordination with Army Research Lab, hosted its second AI Industry Day on Nov. 28, 2018.
More than 600 attendees from 380 industry, academic, and government organizations participated in the event in Silver Spring, Maryland, to discuss the department’s progress in AI and identify partnership opportunities.
Dana Deasy, DOD’s chief information officer, discussed the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center established in 2018.
“DOD is open for business in AI,” Deasy said. “Our goal is for the JAIC to have and deliver the capabilities to solve very large, unique problem sets that touch multiple services. To this end, we’ll build out data sets, infrastructure and tools that the [Defense Department] components can use.”
Accelerating adoption of capabilities
The center will help DOD accelerate the adoption of AI-enabled capabilities, scale AI’s department wide impact and synchronize the department’s AI activities to expand joint force advantages.
Dana Deasy, DOD’s chief information officer.
Although JAIC is in its early stages, officials said, it is already composed of about 25 representatives from across the Defense Department. Ultimately, the JAIC is building toward a distributed model, with a main office in the national capital region and satellite locations to leverage and foster innovation districts throughout the United States.
During the event, Air Force Lt. Gen. John N.T. “Jack” Shanahan, director of defense intelligence for warfighter support, provided an update on the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team’s work on Project Maven.
“AWCFT used the last year to deliver initial operational capabilities and apply lessons learned to improve subsequent capability deliveries,” Shanahan said. “We have come a long way, and the partnerships we forged with industry and academia have been essential to success.”
Project Maven is a fast-moving effort launched in April 2017 to accelerate the department’s integration of big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning into DOD intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance programs.
The White House is warning the public to ignore rumors of a national quarantine for the novel coronavirus, which were circulated by erroneous text messages.
“Text message rumors of a national #quarantine are FAKE,” according to a March 15 tweet posted on the Twitter page of the National Security Council. “There is no national lockdown.”
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told defense reporters Monday that he “was not familiar” with any plans of using the U.S. military to enforce a national quarantine to contain the spread of coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19.
“I think the White House put out a statement that that was untrue and is not something that is under consideration at this time,” he said.
Social media has been flooded with virus-related rumors, many of which are being perpetrated by cybercriminals, according to U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.
CID officials are warning the Army community to be aware of “phishing campaigns that prey on would-be victims’ fear, while others capitalize on the opportunity created by hot topics in the news cycle,” according to a recent CID news release.
“The COVID-19 pandemic presents cybercriminals with a way to combine both into a dangerous one-two punch,” the release states.
Cybercriminals recently hacked the COVID-19 interactive map created by Johns Hopkins University, according to the release. “The hackers are selling copies of the interactive map as a malware tool used to steal passwords and user data,” it added.
CID officials recommend individuals avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails, instant messages or text messages related to information on COVID-19.
One example came in an email with the subject line “Singapore Specialists: Coronavirus Safety Measures,” according to a story on Wired.com.
The email reads: “Dear Sir, Go through the attached document on safety measures regarding the spreading of corona virus. This little measure can save you,” according to the story.
The attached link is labeled “Safety Measures.pdf.”
CID officials put out a list of websites that have recently shown signs of malicious behavior detected by anti-virus software:
CID officials are reminding people to be alert and suspicious and take extra steps to verify the source before releasing any personal or financial information.
Cybercriminals may use a variety of approaches, such as claiming to represent the health department and offering vaccination or other testing against COVID-19, according to the release.
“The health department will not do this,” the release states. “This is a dangerous scam. If this happens, call your local police department immediately.”
The Federal Trade Commission has also identified scams that involve emails “claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying that have information about the virus,” according to the FTC website.
Any online offers for COVID-19 vaccines should be ignored, according to the FTC.
“There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores,” it states.
Other hoax tactics will sound silly to most people, but the CID advises caution if an individual claiming to be from computer support “tells you your computer is infected with corona virus and offers to repair it.”
“Your computer cannot be infected by corona virus,” the CID release states.
“Individuals should be suspicious of anyone who approaches or initiates contact regarding coronavirus; anyone not known, or with whom conversation was not initiated, who offers advice on prevention, protection or recovery — especially if they ask for money,” it adds.
Many Soldiers join the Army as a step towards achieving their goals and dreams. That was reversed for one Soldier going through Advanced Individual Training on Fort Jackson. She qualified for the Olympics in a sport equally suited for the Army – marksmanship.
Spc. Alison Weisz, from Company B, 369th Adjutant General Battalion, will graduate Advanced Individual Training Oct. 8 and then head to the Army Marksmanship Unit in Fort Benning, Georgia. She made Team USA for the Women’s 10m Air Rifle Event for the 2021 Olympic Games, and will be part of the AMU’s International Rifle Team, and compete internationally in both 10m Air Rifle and 50m Three-Position Small bore Rifle.
“It had always been a goal of mine to join the Army after qualifying for the Olympics,” said the Belgrade, Montana native. “The initial plan pre-COVID was that I was going to qualify, go to the Olympics this summer in Tokyo, in August come back, take a little bit of time off, and go to basic training. And that was all just because I wanted to look forward towards 2024 and the Olympics in Paris. The best way to do that for my career and my sport was with the Army.”
The AMU will help her hone her craft even further.
“The Army Marksmanship Unit has some of the best resources that you could imagine, for our sport specifically,” said Weisz, who graduated Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment. “As far as gunsmiths on hand, obviously it’s a source of income as well.”
The Army also helps her financially.
“It’s hard to get that money and financial stability outside of it, outside of anything like the Army,” she said.
Spc. Alison Weisz poses in front of her company sign. Photo by Josephine Carlson
According to USA Shooting, Weisz “became involved in shooting sports through a gun safety and education program out of a small club in Montana at 9 years old.” She was hooked and began her pursuit that led her to the University of Mississippi’s shooting program where she witnessed a slice of Army-life for the first time. Her great uncle was the only one in her Family to have served in the Army.
Some highlights to her shooting resume include 2019 Pan American Games Gold Medalist, Olympic Quota Winner, splitting a playing card on her first try, and four-time NCAA Individual Qualifier and 2016 NCAA Air Rifle Bronze Medalist.
“When I was in college we had matches there,” Weisz said of traveling to Georgia to compete at Fort Benning, “because they host a lot of the national competitions and other selection matches.”
It was at these competitions she would face rivals now turned teammates.
“Even to make this Olympic team, I was competing against my now teammates at the Army Marksmanship Unit and quite honestly it was a very tight race between a couple of them and myself for the women’s 10 meter event,” she said.
In basic training she initially didn’t let her drill sergeants know that she was a world-class marksman who could split a playing card in half with a single shot. In fact, she said she found Basic Rifle Marksmanship “super- fascinating” because it reinforced principles she had known for a long time.
“I was actually really impressed by all the fundamentals that they taught and the fact that those are the same fundamentals that I still follow today and it’s a completely different type and style of shooting so it was really cool to see,” she said.
She added she was impressed how the drill sergeants were able to teach her peers “who have never touched rifles before, they’ve never seen them, and they’ve never been around them.”
Spc. Weisz walks with her fellow trainees during basic combat training at Fort Jackson. US Army photo
While she felt home on the rifle range, she found other aspects of training difficult such as doing physical training in the hot, humid South Carolina mornings, to being rained on during training because you would be wet and have to sit in soggy clothes until later in the day when you could return to the barracks to change.
“I think the most challenging was learning how to deal with so many different people from so many different places and doing such difficult yet simple things 24/7,” she said. Things such as standing at attention, not moving, being quiet, and trying to get 60 people or more to do were difficult for people who don’t have a background founded in discipline.
“They might not have had that being raised or in their life,” she said. “In my sport, discipline is literally all it is; so it was very natural for me. When I need to do something I just do it and just deal with it even if something is bothering me to ignore it and I know and I understand that other people didn’t have that.”
Despite the challenges, Weisz said she plans on using the new experiences to help her on the firing line.
“Even though it was in using pushups or rappelling down the wall with fear … I can now take those skills I’ve learned and apply when I’m actually training and shooting so rather than questioning myself (with questions like), ‘Am I going to be able to shoot well today?'”
Weisz is “super-excited” to get to the AMU after graduation because she “will be training with the best of the best and now we will be the best of the best. The more you surround yourself with the best, the better you will become.
Two U.S. fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers in international airspace off the coast of Alaska on May 11, 2018.
The two Russian TU-95 Bear bombers flew into a so-called Air Defense Identification Zone located about 300 kilometers off Alaska’s west coast, according to a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command in a statement to CNN on May 12, 2018.
Two F-22 fighter jets intercepted and visually identified the Russian bombers until they left the zone. The Russian aircraft never entered U.S. airspace, CNN reported, citing the statement.
Russian bombers were escorted by two F-22 fighter jets in international airspace for 40 minutes, the RIA Novosti news agency cited the Russian Defense Ministry as saying on May 12, 2018.
The U.S. fighter jets did not get closer than 100 meters to the Russian bombers, the Russian military was quoted as saying.
Encounters between Russian and U.S. as well as NATO warplanes have increased as Moscow has demonstrated its resurgent military might.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock)
Russia also has increased its naval presence in the Mediterranean, Black Sea, and other areas.
In January 2018, a Russian Su-27 came within 1.5 meters of a U.S. Navy surveillance plane while it was flying in international airspace over the Black Sea.
Russia has increased its military presence in the area since it annexed Crimea in 2014.
There have also been interactions between the United States and Russia in the skies above Syria, where the nations support differing sides in the ongoing civil war.
In December 2017, two U.S. F-33 Stealth fighter jets fired warning flares after Russian Su-25 jets entered an agreed deconfliction area in Syrian airspace.
Such incidents have added tension to Russia’s relationship with the West, which has been severely strained by Moscow’s takeover of Crimea, its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, and its alleged meddling in the U.S. election in 2016, among other things.
Sun Tzu advised in The Art of War, “When the enemy occupies high ground, do not confront him.”
This is why, since the advent of flight, all battlefield commanders have sought to control the airspace above the battlefield – the “ground” above the high ground.
Control of the airspace grants its occupant a clearer view of an enemy’s movements, better communications with friendly forces and the freedom to move quickly and unpredictably to attack downhill well behind the enemy’s front lines.
Forces on land, at sea and in the air all reap the advantages of the establishment of air superiority – the keystone to victories from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Just as important, occupying that high ground denies those same advantages to the enemy.
Research into lasers may offer advancement in propulsion technology to get us into deep space and beyond for a fraction of the cost. The geniuses at the Air Force Research Laboratory are developing multiple ways to utilize laser power to enhance weapons, mining in space and electrolyze water.
In peacetime, maintaining air superiority provides a deterrent to those potential adversaries who heed the warning of Sun Tzu.
That is why the Air Force and its researchers are constantly looking far beyond the horizon of the current battlefield to develop new technologies enabling access to the highest ground possible – space.
Even before the Soviet Union successfully launched the first satellite, Sputnik, into orbit in October 1957, the United States was developing its own top-secret satellites to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) of potential adversaries – Project Corona.
While Sputnik was little more than a beeping aluminum ball orbiting the Earth, it was an undeniable Soviet flag planted on the global high ground. The U.S. government knew that ceding that high ground greatly increased the chances of defeat should the Cold War with the Soviet Union turn hot.
Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, who oversaw the fledgling National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), firmly acknowledged the national security benefits of advancing the peaceful exploration of space in 1963.
“I, for one, don’t want to go to bed by the light of a Communist moon,” said Johnson.
To this day the U.S. Air Force has remained at the forefront of pushing farther into space, from launching communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to providing astronaut Airmen who first ventured into Earth orbit during Project Mercury, walked on the Moon during Project Apollo to Col. Jack D. Fischer currently aboard the International Space Station.
It is a legacy that surrounds and drives Dr. Wellesley Pereira, a senior research physical scientist with the Air Force Research Lab’s (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.
The very site at which Pereira conducts his research is named for an Airman who led the charge to put an American on the Moon.
The Phillips Research Site is named for Air Force Gen. Samuel Phillips, who served as Director of NASA’s Apollo manned lunar landing program from 1964 to 1969. That program culminated in the first humans, Neil Armstrong and then Air Force Lt. Col. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, landing on the moon in 1969 as Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Collins piloted the Apollo 11 Command Module overhead. It was the kind of aggressive manned exploration of space that Pereira would not only like to see continue, but accelerate.
“The Air Force and its Airmen are seen as trendsetters, as in the case with GPS, benefiting all humanity, or with technologically-inspired precision airdrops from 30,000 feet of lifesaving supplies during humanitarian crises,” said Pereira. “In doing this the Air Force establishes itself as a global power in which it does not cede higher ground to anyone… It pays dividends to be at the leading edge of that technology as opposed to playing catch up all the time. The Air Force can really send a very positive message by being that trendsetter in space.”
Pereira is currently researching infrared physics and hyper-spectral imaging as a means to provide ISR data over a wide range of light not visible to the human eye.
“We simulate cloud scenes viewed from spacecraft,” said Pereira. ” (Examining) all the aspects that affect an image from space like the artifacts caused by movement in the space platform; trying to process signals, trying to process information. We try to simulate these things in our lab just to understand spacecraft processes and how we can deal with this in post-processing.”
Pereira’s current position at AFRL as a research scientist coupled with a background in astronomy, physics and space research gives him the opportunity to think deeply about space and human space flight.
“As a research scientist, I’ve been involved in building payloads for the Air Force on satellites,” said Pereira. “This has led me to think about satellites in general; launch, orbits, moving in and out of orbits, the mechanics of orbits and the optimization of orbits.”
Those contemplations have led Pereira to envision an Air Force of the future that will propel its assets and Airmen to increasingly higher ground in space in a cost-effective way that combines technology old and new – sails and lasers.
“Up until now, we’ve been using chemical propulsion to get into space. Chemical propulsion is limited in what it can do for us in the future. We cannot go very far. We have to take resources from the Earth into space, which is a big issue considering we only can carry so much mass, we only have so much power, and so on. It is limited by chemical bond, but it is also limited by size, weight, power,” said Pereira.
The concept of solar sails has existed for quite a while. A solar sail uses photons, or energy from the sun to propel a spacecraft. Photons have energy and momentum. That energy transfers to a sail upon impact, pushing the sail and spacecraft to which it is attached, farther into space, according to Pereira.
“The Japanese have already proven that we can fly stuff with a solar sail. In 2010, they sent up an experiment called IKAROS, Interplanetary Kite-raft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun. This was a very successful project,” said Pereira.
“In the same vein as solar sails, futurists have also thought about laser sails. I think this is an area where the Air Force can develop an ability for us to propel spacecraft farther using lasers, either in the form of laser arrays on Earth or taking a laser array and putting it on the moon, to propel spacecraft without the cost of lifting spacecraft and chemical propellant from the Earth’s surface.”
In the near future, Pereira sees this method as a cost-effective way the Air Force can lift satellites into higher Earth orbit.
“You have spacecraft go into orbits that are just about 300 to 600 kilometers above the Earth. We call those Low Earth Orbits or LEO. Likewise, you have orbits that could be about 36,000 to 40,000 kilometers above the Earth. We call them Geostationary Earth Orbits or GEO orbits. Many communications satellites, as well as, a few other satellites are in Geostationary orbit…the way of the future, would be to use laser based arrays, instead of chemical propulsion, to fire at a satellite’s sail to push it to a higher orbit,” said Pereira.
“Our goal is to try and minimize taking resources from earth to space. We can literally just launch a rocket using a catapult that could boost to about 100 meters per second and, once we get it to a certain altitude, we can have an array of lasers focus on the sail on the rocket, propel it out farther, whether it’s intended for a LEO orbit or whether it’s intended for a GEO orbit. As long as you can build material that can endure the laser energy without tearing, I think this is a far cheaper way to go and it could save the Air Force a lot of money.”
According to Pereira, developing this technology would naturally lead to the ability to propel spacecraft carrying Airmen farther into the solar system where they could establish self-sustaining outposts on ever higher ground.
“NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the MPCV, is essentially a spacecraft designed to take astronauts farther than any human has ever gone before. One test flight concept is to visit an asteroid called 1999 AO10, in around 2025,” said Pereira. “This asteroid does not have a lot of gravity and not a lot of surface area, so rather than walking on the asteroid, the idea is for the spacecraft to connect itself to the asteroid, and for the astronauts to do spacewalks to mine materials, so that they can bring them back to Earth for analysis.”
Past and current Air Force research during manned space flight has led to increased understanding of human physiological response to microgravity and exposure to radiation, development of life support systems, nutritious food packaging, sophisticated positioning, navigation and timing software and systems that could one day enable Airmen to routinely fly to and mine asteroids and planetary moons for needed resources.
Pereira also sees Air Force cooperation with commercial companies developing space flight technologies as a benefit to both, from developing suborbital space planes, manned capsules and space waypoints, or “hotels”, to projects as ambitious as Breakthrough Starshot, a proposed mission to send a microchip all the way to Proxima B, an exo-planet orbiting the star Proxima Centauri, and transmit data back to Earth.
“They want to do this at about 20 percent of the speed of light, meaning it will take five times as long as it would take light to travel between the Earth and Proxima Centauri, approximately four light years away. So it could take only about 20 years for this chip to get to Proxima Centauri. Then if it beams images back at the speed of light, it would take another four years for that data to come back. In about 24 years, we would get data from Proxima Centauri, our nearest star,” said Pereira.
Pereira believes that the Air Force participating in such ventures into the space domain could lead to technologies that could send Airmen to the moons of outer planets in our solar system within a person’s lifetime, benefiting the human race and keeping the Air Force firmly atop the high ground.
“First and foremost, Airmen, as many times in the past, can serve in the capacity of professional astronauts: providing services in scouting and setting up breakthrough scientific missions, establishing colonies for repair and mining in order to reduce or avoid having to take materials from Earth to space…enabling safe pathways, providing in-flight maintenance, refueling crews, more effectively than machines might be able to do.”
“There are so many wonderful things about space that are so fascinating that we can explore and learn so much more if we just keep that aspect of space exploration going. We can achieve this by having our Airmen lead the way to an era of exploration enabled by human space flight.”
The U.S. Army on Thursday awarded Sig Sauer a contract worth $580 million to make the service’s next service pistol.
Sig Sauer beat out Glock Inc., FN America and Beretta USA, the maker of the current M9 9mm service pistol.
“I am tremendously proud of the Modular Handgun System team,” Army Acquisition Executive Steffanie Easter said in a Jan.19 press announcement. “By maximizing full and open competition across our industry partners, we have optimized private sector advancements in handguns, ammunition and magazines, and the end result will ensure a decidedly superior weapon system for our warfighters.”
The Army did not offer any details about what caliber the new Sig Sauer pistol will be.
The service launched its long-awaited XM17 MHS competition in late August 2015 to replace its Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol. One of the major goals of the effort is to adopt a pistol chambered for a more potent round than the current 9mm. The U.S. military replaced the .45 caliber 1911 pistol with the M9 in 1985 and began using the 9mm NATO round at that time.
Army weapons officials informed Beretta USA and FN America at SHOT Show 2017 that they had been dropped from the XM17 Modular Handgun System in a recent down-select decision, according to a service source who is not authorized to speak to the press.
The decision formally ends the Beretta’s 30-year hold on the Army’s sidearm market.
Beretta has fought hard to remain to remain the Army’s pistol maker. In December 2014, Beretta USA submitted its modernized M9A3 as a possible alternative to the Army’s Modular Handgun System program.
But the Army rejected the improved M9A3 which featured new sights, a rail for mounting lights and accessories, better ergonomics and improved reliability.
Beretta was not finished yet. It developed a new striker-fired pistol, the APX and entered it into the APX.
The Army began working with the small arms industry on MHS in early 2013, but the joint effort has been in the works for more than five years. It could result in the Defense Department buying nearly 500,000 new pistols.
Current plans call for the Army to purchase more than 280,000 handguns, according to Program Executive Office Soldier officials. The Army also plans to buy approximately 7,000 sub-compact versions of the handgun.
The other military services participating in the MHS program may order an additional 212,000 systems above the Army quantity.
“As MHS moves forward into operational testing, the due diligence taken by all of the stakeholders will ensure a program that remains on-budget and on-schedule.” Easter said.
China’s Chengdu J-20, the first stealth jet ever produced by anyone other than the U.S., has presented a mystery to American military planners trying to maintain an edge in the Pacific.
As China gets closer and closer to actually fielding the revolutionary jet, details are becoming more abundant, and its role in the future of warfare more apparent.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies has put together a report on the J-20, complete with a 3D interactive model that shows the plane’s greatest strengths and weaknesses.
The J-20 benefits from a stealth airframe that will radically reduce its radar cross section and any adversaries’ ability to detect it. The jet holds a competitive amount of ordnance, and it’s slated to carry very long range missiles that can keep U.S. systems at bay.
The J-20 also has some of the revolutionary hardware that makes the U.S.’s F-35 such a standout.
China’s new stealth jet features advanced radars and sensors, a datalink to interface with other systems, six cameras to give the pilot spherical awareness in the sky, and a chin-mounted heat-seeking tracking radar.
A dusting of snow and unease fell over Ukraine one day after Russian Coast Guard vessels fired on and detained three Ukrainian military ships and their crews off the Crimean coast, igniting rioting outside the Russian Embassy and public demands for retaliation.
The Nov. 25, 2018 incident marked the most significant escalation of tensions in the shared Sea of Azov in 2018 and the first time since Russia’s unrecognized annexation of Crimea four years ago that Moscow has publicly acknowledged opening fire on Ukrainian forces.
Here’s what went down, what has happened since, and what it all could mean:
What happened and where?
The Ukrainian and Russian versions of events differ, with each blaming the other for instigating the incident.
Kyiv said the Russians’ actions violated a 2003 bilateral treaty designating the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait as shared territorial waters and the UN Law of the Sea, which guarantees access through the strait.
Russian officials said the Ukrainian ships were maneuvering dangerously, requiring the strait to be temporarily closed for security reasons. Moscow has since announced the reopening of the strait after using a cargo ship to block passage beneath a controversial new bridge connecting Russia with occupied Crimea.
But what isn’t disputed is that a Russian Coast Guard vessel, the Don, slammed into a Ukrainian Navy tugboat as it escorted two military vessels toward the Kerch Strait in the direction of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which lies on the coast of the inland Sea of Azov. A series of dangerous events followed.
According to the Ukrainian Navy, the transfer of its vessels from the port of Odesa to the port of Mariupol was planned in advance. It said that while en route on Nov. 25, 2018, the ships had radioed the Russian Coast Guard twice to announce their approach to the Kerch Strait but received no response.
Hours later, as the boats approached the strait, they were intercepted by Russian Coast Guard vessels. A video recorded aboard the Don and shared by Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov appeared to show the chaos that ensued, including the moment that the Russian vessel collided with the Ukrainian tugboat. The tugboat suffered damage to its engine, hull, and guardrail, according to the Ukrainian Navy.
Ukrainian authorities said the Russian forces subsequently opened fire on its vessels, badly damaging them. Russia said its forces fired on the Ukrainian boats as a matter of security.
As the incident unfolded, Russia blocked the Kerch Strait — the only passage to and from the inland Sea of Azov, which is jointly controlled by Russia and Ukraine — by anchoring a freighter across the central span of its six-month-old Crimean Bridge.
At least six Ukrainian servicemen were said to have been wounded, including two seriously, a National Security and Defense Council official and a Foreign Ministry official told RFE/RL on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment officially to journalists. They said around midday on Nov. 26, 2018, that there had been no contact with 23 sailors aboard those vessels. The ships and crew were detained and brought to the Russia-controlled port in Kerch, in annexed Crimea.
Early on Nov. 26, 2018, Kerch FM, a local radio station and news site, published photographs and a video of what it claimed were the detained Ukrainian Navy vessels moored at the port in Kerch.
Meanwhile, Poroshenko’s permanent representative for Crimea, Borys Babin, told the 112 Channel that at least three of six wounded Ukrainian servicemen had been transferred to Moscow for medical treatment. Russian Ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova reportedly told Ukraine’s Hromadske TV that three others were being treated at a hospital in Kerch.
Poroshenko calls for martial law. what would that mean?
From Kyiv’s perspective, the sea skirmish marked a significant escalation in a long-running conflict and perhaps the opening of a new front at sea. Until then, the fighting in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have battled Russia-backed separatists since April 2014, had been mostly a land war fought in trenches and with indiscriminate heavy artillery systems, albeit with mounting confrontations at sea as Russia bolstered its military presence there.
At an emergency cabinet meeting after midnight on Nov. 26, 2018, Poroshenko called on parliament to support a declaration of martial law to respond to Russia’s attacks and its effective blockade of the Sea of Azov. His call was heeded by parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy, who convened an extraordinary session for the late afternoon.
Some are uneasy about Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s desire to introduce martial law.
With a powerful coalition in parliament supporting Poroshenko, passage was virtually assured. Even some members of parliament who frequently oppose the coalition quickly voiced support for the measure, including Self Reliance party leader and Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadoviy.
But some lawmakers expressed concern about the move. Mustafa Nayyem, a member of Poroshenko’s party who is often critical of the president, wrote on Facebook that “the president must indicate the JUSTIFICATION of the need to impose martial law, the BORDER of the territory in which it is to be introduced, as well as the TERM for its introduction.”
“In addition,” Nayyem argued, “the document should contain an exhaustive list of constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens that would be temporarily restricted.”
The proposal from the National Security and Defense Council that Poroshenko announced he had signed on Nov. 26, 2018, listed some of these things, according to a text published on the president’s official site.
The initial text called for partial mobilization, the immediate organization of air-defense forces, tightened security at borders with Russia, increased information security, an information campaign to present facts about Russia’s “aggression,” increased security around critical infrastructure, and more. It can reportedly be canceled at any time.
The text reportedly made no mention of the scheduled presidential election in March 2019, which some critics fear could be postponed. But presidential adviser Yuriy Biryukov said before the decree was published that Poroshenko’s administration would not do that, adding that there would be no restrictions on freedom of speech.
As passed by lawmakers later on Nov. 26, 2018, martial law was to be imposed from Nov. 28, 2018. The order sets out extraordinary measures including a partial mobilization, a strengthening of Ukraine’s air defenses, and several activities with broad wording — such as unspecified steps “to strengthen the counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and countersabotage regime and information security.”
Martial law will be introduced in areas of the country most vulnerable to “aggression from Russia.”
Poroshenko and the martial law decree say it is necessary for national security. Specifically, the decree states it is “in connection with the next act of armed aggression on the part of the Russian Federation, which took place on Nov. 25, 2018, in the Kerch Strait against the ships of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”
Beyond that, he hasn’t said much else about the timing or aims.
The introduction of martial law represents an extraordinary and unprecedented move. No martial law was imposed during Russia’s occupation and annexation of Crimea in early 2014 nor at any point since hostilities began a month later in eastern Ukraine — even when Ukrainian soldiers and civilians were dying at the height of fighting that summer and in early 2015.
Back then, Ukrainian officials worried publicly that a declaration of martial law could severely damage the country’s ailing economy and disrupt cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Today, the economy has seen some recovery and the IMF recently promised Ukraine another financial bailout.
There could be other reasons, as some on Ukrainian social media pointed out after the president’s proposal was made public.
Poroshenko’s approval ratings have declined dramatically in recent months. He’s now lagging far behind his highest-profile opponent, former Prime Minister and Fatherland party leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Some Ukrainian and foreign observers have suggested that Poroshenko, who has tried to capitalize on the threat from Russia with a three-pointed election slogan — Army! Language! Faith! — might benefit from playing up Russian hostilities.
Also, under martial law, some fear Poroshenko could try to cancel or postpone elections. For its part, Ukraine’s Central Election Commission reportedly statedthat holding elections under martial law would be possible.
Meanwhile, in Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s own approval ratings have sunkin recent months as Russians vented anger over controversial pension reforms. Putin’s purported order to special forces to seize the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine came in March 2014, with his approval ratings sagging.
But tensions in and around the Sea of Azov have been mounting for some time, with the Ukrainian military and Border Guard Service telling RFE/RL in August 2018 that it felt like only a matter of time before the situation would worsen.
How did we get here?
Confrontation has been brewing in and around the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait for months, if not years, as RFE/RL reported from Mariupol in August 2018.
The situation began ramping up in May 2018, when Russia opened a 19-kilometer, rail-and-highway bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting mainland Russia with the annexed Crimean Peninsula. The bridge’s low height restricted the types of merchant ships that could pass, decreasing traffic to service Ukrainian ports in Mariupol and Berdyansk. For those cities, their ports are economic lifelines.
Both sides increased their military presence in the Azov region. And Kyiv accused Moscow of harassing ships bound for Mariupol and Berdyansk. Ships operated by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) have since detained more than 150 merchant vessels, holding them for up to several days, at considerable cost to the companies and the ports.
Each side has detained the other’s vessels. In March 2018, Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service detained a Russian fishing boat and impounded it in Berdyansk. In November 2018, Russian Border Guards seized a Ukrainian fishing boat and impounded it in the Russian port of Yeysk, about 60 kilometers southeast of Mariupol.
How will the international community respond?
An emergency United Nations Security Council meeting held later on Nov. 26, 2018, failed to offer any solutions.
Much of the international community, which dismissed Russia’s claim to Crimea in a UN vote in 2014, has largely sided with Ukraine.
Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said free passage of the Kerch Strait was guaranteed by the 2003 treaty signed by Russia and Ukraine. “The Agreement must be respected. It is of utmost importance to avoid any further escalation in the region,” he said in a statement.
Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian foreign minister, tweeted her support for Kyiv. “Canada condemns Russian aggression towards Ukraine in the Kerch Strait,” she wrote. “We call on Russia to immediately de-escalate, release the captured vessels, and allow for freedom of passage. Canada is unwavering in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty.”
U.S. Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker, who has been particularly critical of what he calls “Russian aggression” against Ukraine, tweeted, “Russia rams Ukrainian vessel peacefully traveling toward a Ukrainian port. Russia seizes ships and crew and then accuses Ukraine of provocation???”
But U.S. President Donald Trump did not name either country in a brief response to a reporter’s question about the confrontation. “Either way, we don’t like what’s happening. And hopefully they’ll get straightened out. I know Europe is not — they are not thrilled. They are working on it too. We are all working on it together,” Trump said.
Statements of condemnation were welcomed in Kyiv, but some Ukrainian officials privately expressed to RFE/RL their frustration with such statements. What they would prefer, they said, is for their international partners to apply fresh, harsh sanctions against Russia over the skirmish.
What’s Russia’s next move?
With Ukraine under martial law, this is perhaps the biggest lingering question. The short answer is that no one knows.
Russia’s flagship news program claimed the Kerch Strait incident was a Ukrainian provocation ordered from Washington in a bid to sabotage an upcoming meeting between President Donald Trump and Putin at this week’s Group of 20 (G20) summit in Argentina.
If Russia’s state media provide any indication, the Kremlin might well play up the incident as a demonstration of Ukrainian aggression and perhaps a pretext for further actions against Ukraine. But what kind of actions remains to be seen.
The Russian Foreign Ministry, in a statement, offered no specifics but warned the Kyiv “regime and its Western patrons” of “serious consequences” of the skirmish at sea.
“Clearly, this is a well-thought-out provocation that took place in a predetermined place and form and is aimed at creating another hotbed of tension in that region and a pretext for stepping up sanctions against Russia,” the ministry said.
“We are hereby issuing a warning to Ukraine that Kyiv’s policy, pursued in coordination with the United States and the EU, that seeks to provoke a conflict with Russia in the waters of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea is fraught with serious consequences.”
It added: “The Russian Federation will firmly curb any attempts to encroach on its sovereignty and security.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called for Russia to withdraw its troops from breakaway regions in Georgia while also pledging deeper security and economic support for Tbilisi.
“The United States unequivocally condemns Russia’s occupation on Georgian soil,” Pompeo said in opening remarks to the annual U.S.-Georgian Strategic Partnership in Washington on May 21, 2018. “Russia’s forcible invasion of Georgia is a clear violation of international peace and security.”
Russia has troops stationed in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions that remained after a 2008 war in South Ossetia between Russian and Georgian troops.
Moscow and a few other nations have recognized the two separatist regions as independent countries.
Pompeo also repeated U.S. policy that Washington supports Georgia’s eventual membership in NATO.
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said after a meeting with Pompeo that U.S. support for a peaceful resolution to Russian troops in Georgia “is of highest importance to our country and regional stability.”
Kvirikashvili added that Georgia’s membership in the military alliance would be a “clear added value for Euro-Atlantic security.”
NATO promised Georgia eventual membership in 2008.
Kvirikashvili said U.S. involvement in infrastructure projects in Georgia, like the Anaklia deep-sea port on the Black Sea coast, would help attract economic interest to the area.
Something strange has been happening in Eastern Colorado at night.
Since the week of Christmas, giant drones measuring up to six feet across have been spotted in the sky at night, sometimes in swarms as large as 30. The Denver Post first reported these mysterious drone sightings in Northeast Colorado on Dec. 23, 2019. Since then, sightings have spanned six counties across Colorado and Nebraska.
Phillips County Sheriff Thomas Elliot had no answer for where the drones come from or who they belong to, but he has a rough grasp on their flying habits. “They’ve been doing a grid search, a grid pattern,” he told the Denver Post. “They fly one square and then they fly another square.”
The drones, estimated to have six-foot wingspans, have been flying over Phillips and Yuma counties every night for about the last week, Elliott said. Each night, at least 17 drones appear at around 7:00 pm and disappear at around 10:00 pm, staying 200-300 feet in the air.
The Federal Aviation Agency told the Post it had no idea where the drones came from. Spokespeople for the Air Force, Drug Enforcement Administration, and US Army Forces Command all said that the drones did not belong to their organizations.
As the airspace in which the drones are flying is relatively ungoverned, there are no regulations requiring the drone operators to identify themselves. However, Elliott said that the drones do not appear to be malicious.
The Post spoke to commercial photographer and drone pilot Vic Moss, who said that the drones appear to be searching or mapping out the area. Moss said that drones often fly at night for crop examination purposes. It’s also possible that the drones belong to one of several drone companies based in Colorado, which may be testing out new technologies.
In the meantime, Moss urges residents not to shoot down the drones as they are highly flammable.
“It becomes a self-generating fire that burns until it burns itself out,” he told the Post. “If you shoot a drone down over your house and it lands on your house, you might not have a house in 45 minutes.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As a general in the Marine Corps, Mattis himself was aggressive towards Iran — so much so that former President Barack Obama replaced him as CENTCOM commander. His selection as Trump’s secretary of defense led some to worry that he would bring that attitude to the White House.
But since Mattis’ appointment, he has seemingly reversed his course. He argued in support for the continuation of the Iran deal in October 2017, something that Bolton has repeatedly said should be torn up.
The defense secretary joins prominent Democrats, as well as former Bush and Obama administration officials, who have reservations about Bolton’s hiring.
With the appointment of Bolton, Mattis looks even more like a moderate — and if the recent shake-ups in the White House are any indication, that may put him on the wrong side of the president.
“This is a diplomatically led effort,” Mattis told reporters asking for details on his plans regarding North Korea in early March 2018. “So I do not want to talk about Korea at all. I’ll leave it to those who are leading the effort, the State Department, and the NSC.”
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is also said to be unenthusiastic about Bolton’s appointment, reportedly because he is worried that Bolton will “behave like a cabinet official rather than a staff member.”
Just when you thought things were getting nice and boring, a 1st Lt goes and steals an APC and drives it through Richmond. You know, deep down, the mechanic responsible for that vehicle is secretly proud that their M577 managed to keep up in a police pursuit.
The APC started up, managed to get off base and drive 60 miles to Richmond with the cops on his ass within 2 hours — all without breaking down. Sure, that lieutenant is going to be turning big rocks into smaller rocks for a while but, holy crap, someone give that motor sergeant a medal!
(Meme via Air Force Nation)
(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-Enlisting)
(Meme via Valhalla Wear)
(Meme via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Says)
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
“I went where you told me. I took a left on Victory Road and still didn’t see it.”
(It’s funny because every installation has at least two “Victory Road”s.)
(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)
(Meme via PT Belt Nation)
I swear that this is the last ACP Joyrider meme… this week…
Russia’s military leaders have reportedly called its intelligence service “deeply incompetent” after Western investigators accused its agents of being behind the nerve agent poisoning in England and an attempted hack into the global chemical weapons watchdog.
Photographs showing Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Borishov, two men accused of poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal.
(London Metropolitan Police)
The GRU was described in the meeting, MBK said, as “deeply incompetent,” “infinitely careless,” “morons,” and people that “would still wear the budenovka” — a phrase that means being outdated. The budenovka was a military hat worn in the late 1910s and early 1920s, shortly after the Russian tsar was deposed.
The defense leaders are also considering a “big sweep” at the GRU and ask some of its generals to leave, MBK said.
MBK was founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a prominent Kremlin critic.
Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal buying groceries in Salisbury, England, days before he was poisoned with military-grade nerve agent.
( ITV News)
in September 2018 the UK accused two Russian men of traveling to Salisbury, England, and poisoning Skripal and his daughter with military-grade nerve agent this March, and said they were GRU agents traveling under pseudonyms.
The two men also went on national Russian TV to say that they only visited England to visit a cathedral.
Investigative journalism site Bellingcat, however, has since identified Petrov as Dr. Alexander Mishkin, “a trained military doctor in the employ of the GRU,” and Boshirov as Col. Anatoliy Chepiga, a highly decorated officer with the GRU.
Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov told RT’s editor-in-chief they had nothing to do with the Skripals’ poisoning. Sept. 12, 2018.
In early October 2018, the Netherlands also accused four Russian GRU agents of trying to launch a cyberattack on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the world’s chemical weapons watchdog. The OPCW was, at the time, investigating the nerve agent attack on Skripal and a reported chemical attack in Douma, Syria, where Russian jets have bombed.
The men — two tech experts and two support agents — were caught red-handed and attempted to destroy some of the equipment to conceal their actions, Dutch authorities said.
The Netherlands then determined that they were agents of the GRU after finding that one of their phones was activated near the GRU building in Moscow, and discovering a receipt for a taxi journey from a street near the GRU to the Moscow airport, the BBC reported.
Mark Urban, a British journalist who recently wrote a book about Skripal, wrote in The Times on Oct. 9, 2018: “It would be surprising if this series of compromised operations did not trigger some realignment in Moscow, a further round of struggle between the spy bosses.
“The mockery of the GRU for its recent upsets, both globally and on Russian social media, must have rankled. Whatever the intentions of the Salisbury operation, they cannot have included opening decorated heroes of the agency up for ridicule,” Urban added, referring to Chepiga and Mishkin.